A Farm Visit To Hawthorn Cottage
|March 21, 2008||Posted by Secretary under Visits||
We watched the weather forecast the night before this event and a large black cloud moved slowly north and descended on Ashington at about 2pm with some lightning flashes just above Hawthorn Cottage (which could be clearly seen on the weather map on account of the gleaming new shed roof). It was therefore with wellies macs and brollies that we and 20 others rolled in on Sunday 15th July (St Swithin’s day), our worst fears being confirmed by Stuart our resident weather man who had also come prepared for the worst.
Philip Bull from ADAS welcomed us all and (whilst being loudly heckled by the caged birds) gave an overview of the Entry level stewardship scheme. The scheme has the aim of ecouraging good farming practice whilst minimising impact on the environment and encouraging wildlife. Each hectare of land (they use hectares to make those of us with postage stamp holdings feel even smaller) is capable of earning points from a list of features including properly managed hedgerows & walls, field margins and archeological features. Alas an elderly International tractor does not count as an archeological feature. Reaching the magical 30 points per hectare means a chance of financial reward which will at least go some way towards managing the land in the way Defra would like.
We then set off on our walk – what is this? – bright sunshine! Dave showed us the fields that had been reclaimed from the pit heap and Mr Bull explained how the maintenance of the hedge, if cut no more frequently than once every two years, would provide points for the scheme. Some of the original land still had rig & furrow and this, if left unploughed and away from intesive feeding, would also attract points. The SSSI (Site of special scientific interest) lay outside the scheme but it was certainly interesting to hear about its history and the problems of maintaining it. Dave also told us about a rare form of wildlife that he had encountered that very morning – after long observation it turned out to have two legs and a smoker’s cough.
As we made our way back to the farmhouse you could not help feeling that the land, which had so recently been wasteland, was a credit to the Jobsons and the small herd of very contented shorthorns came across to let us know of their approval.
Arriving back at the house what had been a Defra event suddenly revealed its true colours as the groaning tea table proclaimed that it was a Smallholder event after all.
Many thanks to Mr Bull for his talk and to Margaret & Dave for their generous hospitality.
As we drove home the first spots of rain appeared on the window. Apparently the weather front moving up from the south had been delayed by the postal strike. Nice one.